As I sit to write this article, I have before me a press release dated February 28, 2006, titled "Sperm banking gives teenage cancer patients hope for the future." This was forwarded by a survivor friend of mine and has been a source of wonder and laughter ever since.
To be honest, I couldn't believe that in 2006 someone actually needed to do a research study to find out that young guys would like the option to bank sperm before treatment kicks their ass and potentially kills all their swimmers permanently.
Having got that off my chest, you will soon find out that this article is one of the most satisfying, jammed-packed with joy articles I've ever written.
My topic today is fertility, I have written another article on this issue on our site and I talk about it all the time. But today is different; this article is different.
Upon my diagnosis of AML (Leukemia) almost 8 years ago, I started treatment and ultimately had a bone marrow transplant before I was able to bank sperm, thus leaving me permanently sterile (if you consider 99.97 per cent permanent). My previous article dealt with my life as a sterile young adult recovering from cancer.
This one is all about Geoff Eaton, the Olympic gold medalist. I'll explain.
Although I've been diagnosed with leukemia twice, had my life-time dose of radiation, two transplants and been told by a long list of health professionals that they've never heard of anyone's sperm returning after two transplants, this is the story of how my boys came back.
Now it's not a medical story because I'm not a medical doc; but it's a great story, and the best part is that it's true.
To give credit where credit is due, throughout the last many years I've seen a few complementary healers (homeopath, naturopath, etc) and they've all felt that my boys would come back as I got healthier.
So I continued having sperm tests after my second transplant, always with the same result: nada.
Then in April 2005, I dropped off my little plastic cup on the way to work to keep my testing up, called in that afternoon to chat with my fertility nurse who said "Geoff you have 0.2 million sperm, with motility of 10 per cent!" I was jacked! Holy shit, how did that happen? This is still a super low count; but it's a number other than 0 and while the boys are barely dancing, they're dancing!
I wait the standard 72 days and in July have another test, call in that afternoon and get a different nurse. It was the most awkward conversation of my life. I explain who I am and why I'm calling. She checks my record and says, "You have one sperm." I sit silent for a minute then say, "One." She says, "One." I say, "Can you put that in context for me. On the last test, I had 0.2 million." Cutting me off, she says, "No, you had 200,000" (Obviously not a math major). I thought in my mind, "So last time did you count out all 200,000 and this time just the 1!?"
That fall, my wife, Karen and I get in to see a fertility doc to begin talking about our options for starting a family. We had a great chat but the doc reassures us that my sperm count is like we're using birth control; there is no way we'll have children naturally. Over the course of the last almost eight years, I have begun to love it when the odds are so strongly stacked against me. You'd think this would have been a clear indication of what was to come but not even I could grasp it yet.
Then I wait another month. December comes and a week before Christmas, I go drop off my plastic cup on the way to work and later that day, I call to check my results and talk to my regular nurse. She says, "Geoff, you have 0.3 million sperm with motility between 30-40 per cent!" Now, this is still a super low count but I've increased the count by 50 per cent in six months and motility is up 400 per cent; that's progress.
So I give my wife the good news and say, "Lover (not her real pet name), I'm going to take a few weeks off and then get tested again in three or four months." For those of you new to this game, before going for a fertility test, you are best to avoid hot baths and saunas for 72 days which has some connection to the production of sperm. I happen to love both and had been avoiding them. So over Christmas holidays, I hit the sauna every time I went to the gym, enjoyed our tub and then the strangest thing happened; without even knowing I was training for it, I won an Olympic gold medal in the 1000 mm freestyle, or shall I say one of my boys won!
Yes, a few weeks into 2006, just after my last positive but still super low test and a few weeks of hitting the sauna, one of my boys beat the odds in a way I never have before. He/she heard the start gun and gave 'er, albeit against a much smaller group of competitors than normal but that doesn't take away from the victory at all.
Today, Karen's belly is the biggest it's ever been, she looks the best she's ever looked to me and in another month or so, we'll welcome our little Olympic champ into the family.
So gents, remember, just because you've been given tough news about fertility, just because you've had tests that show your swimmers to be low in numbers, miracles happen!